In American Humanist Association v. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, (4th Cir., Oct. 18, 2017), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision held that a 40-foot tall Latin Cross on government property created as a World War I Veterans’ Memorial violates the Establishment Clause. The majority summarized its holding:The monument here has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion. The Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity. And here, it is 40 feet tall; prominently displayed in the center of one of the busiest intersections in Prince George’s County, Maryland; and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds. Therefore, we hold that the purported war memorial breaches the “wall of separation between Church and State.”Chief Judge Gregory, dissenting in part, said:I conclude that a reasonable observer would understand that the Memorial, while displaying a religious symbol, is a war memorial built to celebrate the forty-nine Prince George’s County residents who gave their lives in battle. Such an observer would not understand the effect of the Commission’s display of the Memorial—with such a commemorative past and set among other memorials in a large state park— to be a divisive message promoting Christianity over any other religion or nonreligion. A cross near a busy intersection
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